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Media Release
Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

20 July 2005

Asian elephant conservation programme approved

Australian zoos have been given the green light to embark on an innovative conservation programme to breed Asian elephants.

The Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, today announced he has given approval for Taronga and Melbourne Zoos to import eight young Asian elephants to be part of a new breeding programme.

Taronga Zoo will import five elephants and Melbourne Zoo will import three.

The application from the zoos to import the endangered elephants has been comprehensively assessed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 which implements Australia's obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and provides some of the strictest wildlife trade controls in the world.

"In granting the import permit, I have determined the proposal meets the requirements of the Act, including that it applies best practice management and it is not detrimental to the survival of the species," Senator Campbell said.

With fewer than 50,000 Asian elephants remaining in the wild, a number of activities - including increased urban development, habitat loss and poaching - threaten the existence of the species, particularly in south east Asia.

"The zoos' breeding programme is a significant and exciting attempt to breed a species that is endangered and for which the long-term survival is under continued threat," Senator Campbell said.

While it is recognised that elephants are difficult to breed in captivity, there has been increasing success in other parts of the world, particularly in the European region.

"Every attempt must be made to ensure the survival of the species, including through captive breeding programmes. Research and training, and the development of husbandry and veterinary expertise have an important role in implementing strategies to increase, maintain, or halt the decline in, the world population of Asian elephants," Senator Campbell said.

"I recognise that some groups are concerned about importing elephants into Australia and have strong views about the zoos' proposal. I have considered these arguments very carefully in making my decision.

"In approving the proposal under the Act, I am satisfied the zoos' objectives are based on the conservation status and needs of the Asian elephant and aims to make a significant contribution to the preservation of the species," he said.

Media contacts:
Minister Campbell   Renae Stoikos   (02) 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434

Commonwealth of Australia